How to Prevent and Get Rid of Rats in The Kitchen

close-up of rat sitting in dirty dishes on a kitchen counter

There’s a good reason chefs hate rats so much. They’re dirty, diseased, and don’t belong anywhere near a kitchen. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to keep rats out of your kitchen and give them the boot when they get in. Read below to learn how to prevent and get rid of rats in the kitchen with traps and deterrents.

How to Prevent Rats In Your Kitchen

When you’re trying to keep out rats, the most important thing you can do is eliminate conditions that attract rodents. That means cleaning up food, removing cover, and generally making an inhospitable environment. Rats will spread across your entire home if, so it’s important to practice these prevention methods everywhere, but the kitchen will be our main point of discussion.

Here’s a few rat prevention strategies that you should be practicing:

Clean Up

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One of the most important things you can do to keep rats out of your kitchen is to keep it clean. Any stray food will attract rodents, so always clean up right away after cooking and don’t leave anything out. You also need to take your trash out regularly and keep the can clean so that scraps and spills don’t attract the rats.

Remove Moisture

Rats are also attracted to moisture, so it’s important to clean up any sources as soon as they form. This isn’t to say that you need to dry your sink after each use, but you do need to mop up any puddles and address any leaking pipes quickly.

Seal Food

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Rats won’t just be attracted to food you leave out. They’ll also go after your pantry. To prevent them from nibbling on your food, store anything that comes in a bag or a cardboard box in a sealed plastic container. This applies to both human and pet food.

Eliminate Points of Entry

Rats enter your home through small cracks or holes in the exterior or foundation. Sealing them up with caulk prevents rats from accessing your home. While it’s important to do this across the house, there are several common access points in your kitchen that you should pay particular attention to.

Areas to keep an eye on in your kitchen include:

  • Near the stove and refrigerator
  • Around your water pipes for appliances like the sink and refrigerator
  • Inside cabinets and drawers
  • Floor vents
  • Windows
  • Shelving near the pantry

It’s also possible for rats to get into your kitchen through a sewage line. They crawl up them when not in use and gnaw their way through, which can lead to an infestation in the walls. If this occurs, you’ll likely notice a foul smell that should lead you to the problem.


peppermint oil
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Using repellents with scents that rodents hate can help keep them out of your kitchen. The best rat repellents include eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender. You can buy the repellent in stores or use essential oils with these scents for the same result. Sprinkle a few drops around the kitchen, especially around common entry points, every so often to keep rats away.


Rodents are nocturnal and hate light, which is why they’re rarely seen during daylight hours. If you want to keep them out of your kitchen, you should keep it lit. You don’t need to keep the kitchen light on overnight, however; even setting a light to turn on intermittently will help repel the rats.

How to Get Rid of Rats In Your Kitchen

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Unfortunately, prevention methods aren’t foolproof. Despite all your efforts, there’s always the possibility that rodents will set up shop. Your best choice is to hire a professional before the infestation grows. Rats carry diseases which can spread to humans, so it’s important to solve the issue right away before they contaminate your food or make you sick. 

When you have an infestation in your kitchen and want to take the DIY route, your options are fairly limited compared to the rest of the house. Even the best rat poisons aren’t an option since you eat and prepare food in your kitchen. So, you’ll have to set traps instead. 

Here’s some step-by-step instructions for getting rid of rats in your home with a trap:

Step 1: Choose Your Trap

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The first step is to choose the right trap. You have two main options: lethal traps or nonlethal live capture traps. Live capture traps let you release the rodent alive, but they’re not recommended by the CDC because of possible disease exposure. When getting your rat trap, make sure that it’s specifically designed for rats. Mouse traps will not work for a rat infestation. 

If you choose a lethal trap, the best type of rat trap is the classic snap trap. A snap trap kills the rodents instantly, ensuring that they don’t suffer. Other types of lethal traps are excessively cruel, especially glue traps, which are banned in many countries. The CDC also does not recommend glue traps for the same reason as live capture traps.

Step 2: Choose Your Bait

When you’ve chosen your trap, you need to pick out bait for it. Rats are attracted to foods that are rich in protein and high in calories. By and large, the best rat trap bait is peanut butter. It has high amounts of protein and calories and is very viscous, which means that the rats can’t steal it off the trap as easily. You can also use nuts, jerky, and marshmallow.

Step 3: Set and Monitor

The next step is to set your rat traps. The best placement for traps to catch a rat like a pro, live or lethal, is anywhere you’ve seen signs of the rats or in any out-of-the-way corners of the kitchen, such as the backs of cabinets. You should also place them along the walls since that’s where rodents make their trails. Place them perpendicular to the wall with the trigger facing the wall  so that rodents can’t go around it.

Once your traps are set, you need to keep an eye on them. Check each trap once a day to see if it’s caught a rat. If the bait has been stolen, replace it and reset the trap.

Pro Tip: If you leave traps baited but not set for a few days, rats will get used to them and be more likely to fall for them when you set them.

Step 4: Dispose of or Release The Rat

Whenever handling a rodent, live or dead, you need to take precautions. Always wear protective gear, including a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy jeans, closed-toed shoes, thick gloves, and an N95 mask.

If you were using a lethal trap, spray the rat with some form of disinfectant and place it in a plastic bag so that you can dispose of the dead rat in an outdoor garbage can. Then, sanitize the trap so you can use it again.

If you were using a live capture trap, you need to take the rat away from your home, at least five miles away, and release it in a wooded area. Pick an area with a body of water between it and your home if possible, and release it with a small amount of food to be humane.

Next, sanitize the area where the rat trap was placed with a disinfectant. Wipe down the area with disposable paper towels. If you handle the rat with any kind of tool, sanitize it right away. Finally, remove protective gear and wash your hands with soap and water. Clean the protective gear, too, such as any clothes you were wearing while handling the rat. 

Step 5: Clean Up

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Finally, once you’re sure the infestation is taken care of, you need to clean your home. First, get it professionally inspected to evaluate the damage the rats have done. Depending on where they were nesting, they may have damaged your electrical wiring, insulation, or even your water or gas lines. If they got in through the sewage system, it can be especially bad.

Most of the damage rats do will be behind the walls and not visible at first glance, which means that, depending on what’s been damaged, you may have to replace your sheetrock or other home features. It’s even possible that the inspector will find more rats that you weren’t aware of.

When you’ve assessed and repaired all the damage, the next step is to do a deep clean of the entire house. A professional deep cleaning involves cleaning all the dirt and grime that’s accumulated, sanitizing everything, and dusting all over. It’s necessary to ensure that all traces of the rats and the germs they leave behind are gone.

Signs of Rats

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Knowing how to spot signs of rodents is vital. The sooner you know you have rats, the sooner you can get rid of them, which means they’ll do less damage. Here’s a few indicators of rats in your kitchen, or the rest of your house, that you should look out for:

  • Droppings: One of the earliest signs of a rat infestation is droppings. Rat droppings are small, round, and brown, with a foul odor. You may see them in clusters anywhere the rats have been. They’re larger than mouse droppings, which have pointed ends and almost look like black grains of rice.
  • Gnaw Marks: Rats will gnaw on almost anything for nesting material or to trim their teeth. They’re particularly fond of wood, so if there’s wooden furniture in your kitchen, watch it for damage.
  • Tracks: Rats leave tracks wherever they go. Rats tracks are small paw prints that may be smudged due to the rats scuffing them as they walk. You may notice them leaving trails in dust or tracking in dirt.
  • Damaged Food: Rats will eat almost anything they can get their hands on. A clear sign of an infestation is damaged food or packing. If you see bite marks on your food, it likely needs to be thrown out.
  • Sightings: It’s rare for you to see a rat when you have an infestation, but it’s not unheard of. If you see one in your kitchen, even a dead one, it’s likely there’s many more hiding somewhere.
  • Appliance Problems: Rats like to make nests in appliances and chew up the wiring. If you notice your fridge or oven failing, inspect it carefully. You may find that rats have made a nest inside or behind it.
  • Nests: A rat nest is a definitive sign that you have an infestation. They look like tightly woven balls of whatever material the rat can scavenge, with a single entrance at the top. You may find them behind appliances, in cabinets, or even in your walls.
  • Odor: Rats carry a distinctive musty ammonia-like odor. If they’re nesting in your kitchen, you may be able to smell it floating around. The smell is similar to mice, but not as pungent.
  • Sounds: If you have rats in your kitchen, especially if there’s a large group, you may be able to hear them. Listen for squeaking, scratching, or rustling coming from out-of-the-way areas.

Where Do Rats Hide In Your Kitchen?

When rats infest your kitchen, they tend to nest in certain spots. Rats like dark, out-of-the-way areas that don’t see a lot of foot traffic. When you’re trying to find a rat infestation, you should look in these areas first. Here’s a few known rat nesting sites in your kitchen to keep an eye on:

  • Under Sinks: Underneath the sink is an ideal place for rats to nest. It has plenty of moisture and is rarely disturbed.
  • In Cabinets: Rats will nest in the backs of cabinets, especially ones that you don’t open very often.
  • Behind Appliances: Rats will even make nests behind large appliances, such as ovens or refrigerators.
  • In Walls: Wall voids are a common nesting site for rats. Rats commonly get into your kitchen walls through weak points in your plumbing and sewage lines.
  • Grills: If you have an outdoor kitchen, rats will nest in your grill if given the chance. Thankfully, getting rid of rats outside is largely the same as doing it inside.

Other Areas Rats Hide

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Of course, rats won’t limit themselves to one room. If they’re in your kitchen, it’s a safe bet they’re somewhere else in your home, too. Here’s a short list of a few common nesting spots for rodents:

  • Attics: Attics are a perfect nesting spot for rats. They’re dark, rarely visited, and usually have plenty of boxes and other materials to make nests with. The most common type identified in attics are roof rats, which are known to nest in roofs.
  • Crawl Spaces: Crawl spaces are another common rat nesting site. Rats in your crawl space are very dangerous since they can gnaw on important support beams. If you want to keep rats out of your crawl space, you may need to invest in a rat slab for your home.
  • Porches: Rats are known to nest underneath your porch. If a rat is nesting in your porch, it may cause it to collapse eventually by gnawing on the wood. To prevent this, you can get a rat wall for your home to keep them out.
  • Basements: Basements are another common rat nesting site. While they’re visited more often than attics, they’re still dark and have plenty of nesting materials. If you have rats in your basement, you need to evict them ASAP before they weaken the structural walls or your foundation.
  • Walls: Rats commonly nest in walls throughout the house. It’s extremely important that you get rid of rats in your walls as soon as you can before they damage your insulation, wiring, or drywall.
  • Garages: Rats nest in garages if given the opportunity. If your water heater, circuit box, or other important home features are located in your garage, rats can do serious damage, so you should take steps to remove them right away.
  • Cars: As unsettling as it sounds, rats will nest in cars. They typically reside in the engine, but can also invade the body or other enclosed spaces like the trunk. If you suspect them, take your car to a mechanic to confirm so that you can get rid of the rats in your car.

How Much Does an Exterminator Cost?

A professional rodent exterminator costs $245 to $450 on average. However, your final cost will depend on many different factors, including the severity of the infestation and the size of your home. You may also have to pay additional costs for home inspection, repairs, or deep cleaning depending on where the rats were nesting.

FAQ About Rats

Do you need to throw out the food in my kitchen if I have a rat infestation?

It depends on what kind of container the food is in and whether it’s damaged. Firstly, if you’ve confirmed signs of a rodent infestation in your kitchen, move forward with the assumption that a rat has at least touched everything inside. Anything opened needs to be thrown away. The same goes for any paper containers, like flour or sugar.

Rats can and will get in your refrigerator, but if you haven’t seen signs that they have yet, the food inside is likely still safe. However, you will need to move it somewhere else ASAP. If they have gotten in, anything fresh or opened needs to be thrown away. Sealed containers can be cleaned and kept as long as they’re intact.

For the pantry, if the container is metal, glass, or plastic, you can wash it and keep it as long as it’s intact. If it’s a cardboard box, throw it away if the contents are loose, like pasta. If it has a bag on the inside, on the other hand, like cereal, you can keep it as long as the bag is intact, but you still need to throw away the box.

Any food that you can save needs to be moved out of the kitchen to a rat-free area while you’re dealing with an infestation. Put everything in a large plastic bin in a room where you’ve seen no signs of rats and seal anything that comes in a cardboard box in its own plastic food storage container. Store refrigerated food in a cooler filled with ice or get a mini fridge.

What happens if I eat food that’s been contaminated by rats?

If you eat food that rats have gotten into, you’re likely to get very sick. Rats commonly carry hantavirus, salmonella, and many other diseases that can have harmful effects. You should go to urgent care as soon as you realize you ate contaminated food, or as soon as you start preventing symptoms. If your symptoms are severe, you may need to go to the hospital or even the emergency room.

How long does it take to get rid of a rat infestation in the kitchen?

How long it takes to get rid of a rat infestation depends on the severity. If it’s not very severe, you may be able to take care of it in a few weeks. On the other hand, if you have a very severe infestation, it can take months to get rid of them all and will likely require professional help.

Find a Rodent Pro

When a rodent moves into your kitchen, removing it is vital. Knowing how to keep them out and get rid of them ahead of time can save you a lot of time, money, and effort when an infestation happens.

If you’re struggling to keep rats out of your kitchen, contact pest control professionals near you. They can keep rats out of your home and get rid of any that have moved in.

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Austin Geiger

Austin Geiger is a writer who's passionate about pest prevention. He enjoys writing about rodent control and teaching readers about how to keep their homes free of rats and mice.